Joe Biden says he views "this campaign as a campaign between Scranton and Park Avenue."
It’s comical on a variety of levels, the most stunning of which is that, while bashing Park Avenue on the campaign trail, Biden’s been busy raising money from people who live and work there.
On Jan. 6 of this year, Biden appeared live and in person at an 80-person fundraiser that was held in the offices of real estate firm Newmark Knight Frank, at 125 Park Avenue in New York City.
According to a pool report of the event, Biden concluded by telling the gathered crowd that the next 10 months would be a "long slog."
Though it will be an "ugly race," Biden said, "it has to be run."
Who could have guessed the ugliness would come from Biden attacking precisely the Manhattan neighborhood he was then visiting?
The Newmark Knight Frank CEO, Barry Gosin, who introduced Biden at the January fundraiser, gave $100,000 in December 2019 to the ironically named pro-Biden superpac, "Unite the Country."
Browse the "Unite the Country" big donor list and you will see a lot of names from New York and Northern California, but no one who lists a Scranton residence.
Caroline Kennedy attended the January Biden Park Avenue fundraiser and lives on Park Avenue. She spoke at the Democratic National Convention that nominated Biden.
She has donated thousands to Biden, as has her husband, Edwin Schlossberg.
Another Park Avenue pair, Eric and Stacey Mindich, have each donated $200,000 — for a total of $400,000 — to the Biden Action Fund, federal campaign finance records show.
OpenSecrets.org, which analyzes campaign finance data, indicates the Biden Action Fund has raised $6 million from New York, $2 million from California, and somewhere less than $100,000 from Pennsylvania, including Scranton. Another OpenSecrets analysis shows Biden’s five top donor zip codes as three in Washington, D.C. and two in New York.
Biden’s clumsy attempt at divisiveness is as illuminating as it is cynical.
The journalist Soledad O'Brien responded brilliantly by pointing out that a president can represent both Scranton and Park Avenue. "NYC's Park Avenue is amazing. No need to knock it. Would be nice to have a President who sees every American as worth fighting for," she said in a tweet.
Over the weekend, the "Daily Show" host Trevor Noah had an interview published in The Wall Street Journal in which he said the one thing he hoped would change in the world is "for people to stop seeing society as a zero-sum game."
Said Noah, "We’ve convinced ourselves that in order for one person to win, another has to lose."
It’s easy for politicians to fall into that trap, especially at the presidential level, because for one presidential candidate to win, the other one has to lose.
But Biden didn’t amass a reputation as a legislative dealmaker without understanding, on some level, the virtue of finding win-win agreements.
The whole Park Avenue versus Scranton formulation is a flop.
Some of the people who now live on Park Avenue grew up in Scranton, and may still have friends or family there or in places like Pennsylvania or small cities elsewhere.
These Park Avenue residents may have a sense that we Americans are all in this together.
Back in the 2016 election, some Manhattan residents I know actually traveled to Pennsylvania for the day to try to help get out the vote for Hillary Clinton.
They didn’t see the election as one pitting New York against Pennsylvania.
President Trump responded on Twitter to Biden’s assertion by writing, "Joe Biden says this is a race between Scranton and Park Avenue. This is a race between Scranton and China. Joe Biden betrayed Scranton, and America, to China and foreign countries. I will always put America First!"
There are elements of the U.S.-China international competition that are zero-sum, but there are other elements that could be win-win. Trump conveys, in that tweet, at least, that America’s primary enemies are external, rather than on the Upper East Side.
Biden may have been trying to make a point about how people on Park Avenue own lots of stock and thus are pleased with the Trump stock market rally, while people in Scranton do not.
Here’s the full quote: "The reason I'm running is because, look, the interesting thing for me is, I view this — I really do view this campaign as a campaign between Scranton and Park Avenue, and I really mean it."
Then a few sentences later: "All that Trump could see from Park Avenue is Wall Street. All he thinks about is the stock market and telling him, we’re going to do all right. Everybody who owns stock. How many of you all own stock — now, in my neighborhood in Scranton, not a whole lot of people own stock."
A pro-growth presidential candidate might try to think of a way to get more Scranton residents to own stock, instead of stoking resentment and envy against those elsewhere who do. It’d be a fine line of questioning the next time the Democratic candidate tries raising money in Manhattan.
Ira Stoll is author of "JFK, Conservative," and "Samuel Adams: A Life." Read Ira Stoll's Reports — More Here.
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